Dictionary Definition:

loi·ter (loitr)
intr.v. loi·tered, loi·ter·ing, loi·ters
1. To stand idly about; linger aimlessly.
2. To proceed slowly or with many stops: loitered all the way home.
3. To delay or dawdle: loiter over a task


Prince William County Code Sec. 16-16 states as follows:

Any person who remains or loiters on property, whether such property is publicly or privately owned, in such a manner as to impede or hinder the passage of pedestrians or vehicles, or in such manner as to interfere with or interrupt the conduct of business, or who remains or loiters on such property knowing that an offense is being committed, or under circumstances which justify a reasonable suspicion that such person may be engaged in, or is about to engage in, a crime, or with the purpose of begging, shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor; provided, however, that such person shall have first been instructed to move on by a law-enforcement officer and shall have failed or refused to comply with such instruction.

NO LOITERING signs have been up all over the place for years. Some of the signs are to keep kids from gathering and hanging out. Signs are put up to keep people from taking advantage of store fronts. In general, the loitering ordinances are to keep people from gathering where other people (usually shop owners or local governments) don’t want a crowd hanging out.

This post and resulting thread are to discuss loitering in general, not the specific case brought forth by the ACLU. Please keep case specific comments on the other thread. How are loitering laws used? Are they necessarily bad? Good? How do they help communities? How do they hurt communities?

Again, please honor the request–nothing specific here to the PWC case.

81 Thoughts to “Loitering: What is it?”

  1. Moon-howler

    Here is a link that tells of the result of what I was talking about with the Justice department. Rick, please tell me how HSM helped this situation.

    Didn’t an employee tell confidential information to someone she shouldn’t have? Who knows the story?


  2. @Moon-howler
    I live in a townhouse complex with LOTS of renters. And I’ve lived in a slum. I’ve lived in apartments in an immigrant city. I’ve also lived in Manassas in an older complex where I was probably a “minority.” And I’ve lived in an apartment house where I was the only straight person. It was never or has never been a problem, even when neighbors have not always been particularly compatible.

    There was always a way of working it out without getting into people’s personal lives. We never questioned their citizen status which is once again…a FEDERAL issue.

  3. Rick Bentley

    “How did HSM help you Rick? Name me one thing you think they did in your community to relieve your problem?”

    Helped scare the BOS into a 9-0 vote supporting the Rule of Law resolution.

  4. Lafayette

    It was an 8-0 vote Rick,not 9. 🙂
    7 districts an one Chairman.

  5. Censored bybvbl

    Rick, is that April 2007 date for an incorporation for HSM? I thought that group was soliciting at the county fair before it(HSM) actually was incorporated. That would make it earlier.

    GR, you’re mistaken about the majority of complaints called in to the anonymous hotline. They were NOT valid. Yours may have been, most others weren’t.

    I, like Moon-howler, have lived next door to many of the same problems that you, GR and Rick, have experienced. None were caused by illegal immigrants and not one, nada, zip, zero would be solved by your costly resolution.

  6. GainesvilleResident

    Interesting then, how does one explain this at http://www.manassascity.org/DocumentView.asp?DID=967

    While 121 out of 299 is not a majority – it still is a good percentage. One would have been left to believe by posts on here that a very very small percentage of the complaints were valid. Either this report is wrong, or comments to the effect that my complaint was “one of the very few valid ones” are highly misleading.

  7. GainesvilleResident

    I’d also like an answer to the following question:

    If enforcing overcrowding zoning statutes isn’t the answer – then just what is? I’ve seen a bunch of posts saying overcrowding has been a problem, but then when it is attempted to be enforced, lawsuits ensue – and people say it unfairly targets Hispanics. So, then just what IS the solution? No one seems to be able to say, other than the vague “neighborhood services” whatever that is.

  8. GainesvilleResident

    This also proves the timeframe I was referring to – as I said I thought I’d complained even before January 1, 2005 and reading that report, I’m now sure I did. Once again, this was well before HSM, so the talk that HSM planted the notion in people’s heads to report overcrowding in City of Manassas is just that – a lot of talk with very little truth behind it.

  9. Censored bybvbl

    GR, and you’ll also see from the data you linked that most of those 121 cases were resolved either by the individuals moving out or coming into compliance. Situations such as yours were not the norm.

  10. Censored bybvbl

    Hispanics are a “protected group” under Fair Housing. I suppose they made that category because of past discrimination against them.

    A couple council members fought for a definition of family to solve overcrowding complaints. Then someone (or a couple of someones) publically linked overcrowding to “illegal aliens”. Uh oh – big mistake!

  11. GainesvilleResident

    Censored bybvbl :GR, and you’ll also see from the data you linked that most of those 121 cases were resolved either by the individuals moving out or coming into compliance. Situations such as yours were not the norm.

    That’s the whole point of reporting them, isn’t it? To get them to come into compliance. Somehow, I’d doubt they would have done that if they hadn’t been reported.

    Also, does that somehow not make those valid complaints? I don’t get it, earlier on it was repeatedly said “very few complaints were valid”. From what I can see, all 121 of these were, and the fact that most were resolved after the complaint, makes it a good thing, not a negative.

    Mine was resolved twice too – but each time after 3 months they must have figured it was OK to reviolate the statute. Same landlord, just different renters. The 3rd time I complained, was post lawsuit and that’s when nothing ever got done.

    I kind of wonder how many of those 121 complaints were like mine – resolved for awhile, and then when they figured people no longer cared, went back to being overcrowded again. Obviously, the landlords could not make a profit on the property without renting to 10 or more people at a time – at least that’s the way I see it. Or, they’d converted the property to house that many people, that now it was an undesirable property to rent out to a normal amount of people, since most of it was given over to “bunking space”. The property next to mine – the basement has clearly been converted to that purpose – even to the point that people living in there don’t have access to the rest of the house – but come and go from the basement door. There’s no way that house can go back to normal type housing without massive renovations. That’s one reason it kept reverting to overcrowded status.

  12. GainesvilleResident

    Censored bybvbl :Hispanics are a “protected group” under Fair Housing. I suppose they made that category because of past discrimination against them.

    And as a result of that – it allows them to overcrowd houses, with no apparent solution since any time a solution is attempted – lawsuits will follow due to their “protected status”. Meanwhile neighborhood suffer. Sounds like a real good system there.

  13. Censored bybvbl

    GR, occasionally there’s a crackpot who lodges many complaints, all invalid. That skews the numbers higher. Sometimes people really don’t know what the regulations are and they will come into compliance when the rules are explained. An acquaintance of mine and her roommates were once cited by the city for having too many unrelated people in a five bedroom house. They (5 of them) were all recent college grads and were unaware of the zoning issue.

    Sure, there are people who will play cat and mouse games but they aren’t the majority. Unfortunately for you and some others who post here, a lot of the problems were in particular neighborhoods and the problems were more noticable in townhouse communities – thin walls, too little parking , kinda the problems associated with multi-family housing.


  14. Rick Bentley

    Censored, I believe the April 2007 date is when it formed and held its first meeting, and elected officers. That jibes with my recollections (and I was there when they voted for officers) and here’s some proof – http://www.novatownhall.com/blog/2007/04/help_save_manassas_kick_off.php

    Prior to that Greg L was active on the web and I for one was heartened by one of his web pages, but there was no HSM. There was Help Save Herndon, which was so successful, and I believe Help Save Virginia.

  15. GainesvilleResident

    @Censored bybvbl

    The thing is, it looks to me that at least during the time period of July 2004 – July 2005 – 121 out of 299 complaints WERE valid. Obviously, the others were investigated and found not to be valid. So I don’t get where the harm was, and obviously action was taken for the 121 that were valid that improved things, at least for a time.

    Somehow, it seemed to me that it was being said there were very few valid complaints, people were being unfairly targeted, etc. etc. OK, you can say 60% roughly of the complaints were found to be invalid, but that still leaves 40% which is a huge number – not the small number it sounded like earlier in this forum. Let’s put it this way – if there really WAS a small number (say 5% or less) I don’t think this whole thing would ever have been an issue. And, as far as targeting Hispanics unfairly – I’d love to see what percentage of the valid complaints were Hispanic occupied houses. My guess is a very high percentage of them, and just because that’s the case doesn’t mean they were unfairly targeted. It probably just shows that indeed, a high percentage of the overcrowded houses are occupied by Hispanics. Does that mean that they should be immune from zoning rules because enforcing them will unfairly target them? I don’t think so.

    As far as thin walls, too little parking – I lived in my townhouse for 25 years and never had any problems until the last 4 years roughly – when the overcrowding problems occurred. It doesn’t matter how thick your walls are when people are blasting stereos at all hours of the day and night (and more frequently in the wee hours of the morning for some reason), attempting to park more then 2 cars on the lot and getting away with it while other law abiding people’s cars were towed, and tossing out garbage 7 days a week in defiance of the rules for not putting out garbage on non-garbage days. None of this stuff ever happened before 4 years ago – the other 21 years I was in the townhouse everything was just fine. It was a seismic shift, and overcrowding was the cause of it. But now I’m hearing that too bad – you can’t enforce overcrowding because it discriminates against Hispanics! That’s just crazy.

  16. Censored bybvbl

    GR, I believe a disproportionate number of complaints were lodged against Hispanics. Sixty percent of the complaints weren’t valid. Of the forty percent that were valid, 102 of those reduced their occupancy. Overcrowded houses in the City and PWC amounted to less than 5% of the housing stock if I remember figures correctly. Some neighborhoods were much more impacted than others – generally where housing was affordable.

    Does your old neighborhood have an HOA or are parking spaces assigned? Why wouldn’t they tow cars if they were in marked reserved spaces?

    As far as enforcement goes, the key is to address the behavior and not the person. Too many people don’t want to take the trouble to join or lead their HOAs or civic associations. Or they don’t want to take an annoying neighbor to court even though they may have police reports to back them up. Sometimes these problems will have to be handled by a civil suit. It just isn’t the taxpayers’ problem. The police can only do so much.

  17. Censored bybvbl

    Okay, Rick, then the leafletting at the fair must have been in 2007. The blog had addressed most of these issues prior to HSM.

  18. GainesvilleResident

    @Censored bybvbl
    Why wouldn’t they tow cars in parking spaces assigned? Because they used Dominion Towing, which is a completely dishonest towing company. That’s why.

    I still don’t get it – “the key is to address the behavior and not the person.” The behavior WAS overcrowding.

    And, there’s no way overcrowding in my neighborhood was only 5% of the houses. On my block alone there were 4 overcrowded houses out of 20, which is a lot higher than 5%. I think that also held for the rest of the neighborhood.

    A disproportionate number of complaints were lodged against Hispanics probably because a disproportionate number of overcroweded houses were occupied by Hispanics, compared to the percentage of Hispanics occupying houses as a whole. So it stands to follow, that if a large percentage of overcrowded houses were occupied by Hispanics, then a large percentage of the complaints would indeed be against Hispanic occupied houses. There was no “targeting” involved, unless the targeting was against overcrowded houses.

    Besides, the proof is things were working, the great majority of the “valid complaints” were resolved over time apparently – at least for some period of time. As to the “invalid complaints” – what harm was done? People were questioned, they were shown to be in compliance and that was the end of the story.

    Much more harm was done since 2006 when this lawsuit came about and the city stopped enforcing overcrowding complaints. That’s the net of it.

    And I’ve yet to see anyone propose an alternate solution. The idea of civil suits – just what we need – loading up the courts with yet more civil suits. The only one who is going to make money off of that is the lawyers!

    And actually, the police weren’t the ones investigating overcrowding – at least in the City of Manassas. At least in the times I complained and got feedback – it was from someone from the fire department actually. The police were never involved. Maybe it’s different elsewhere.

    Anyway, the original statement was that very few of the complaints were valid. Unless “very few” is defined as 40%, I think that statement is refuted.

  19. Lafayette

    The statewide organization is Save The Old Dominion, and it was not born or announced to the public until December 2007.
    You know some can be real sticklers for details. 🙂

  20. Censored bybvbl

    GR, so what exactly was your problem with overcrowding – noise, cars, trash? Some of those problems are addressed by the police, some by the city’s NS, some by your towing company. Why did residents tolerate the lack of action by the towing company? Who oversaw the contract?
    What recourse would you have if a family with two children moved in and then proceeded to have ten more kids? There are a plethora of definitions of overcrowding depending on the agency writing the code, but being Hispanic isn’t one of them.

    Was your neighborhood overwhelmingly Hispanic?

  21. Gainesville Resident

    My problem with overcrowding was all of the above – noise, cars, trash, etc.

    The HOA refused and still refuses to acknowledge anything bad about the towing company. Many many residents complained to the HOA, which is run by a small clique of people who refuse to allow anyone else from the neighborhood to make any changes. I’d call, they’d never tow the offending cars – the people would come running out, make some excuse (usually to the effect that someone else was allegedly parked in their space – which wasn’t true), they wouldn’t get towed – the cycle would repeat ad infinitum.

    No, the neighborhood was not overwhelmingly Hispanic – it was no more so than the percentage of Hispanics in the city in general, I’d say. I don’t see what that has to do with it anyway. Now, the overcrowded houses, which probably made up 20% of the houses in the neighborhood, WERE overwhelmingly if not 100% Hispanic.

    I called the police a few times about the noise, but they’d just turn the stereo back up an hour or so after the police left. After a few times of this, I concluded the police had much more important things to do than to respond to noise complaints – as there was enough more serious crimes going on in my opinion that needed their attention. I wasn’t about to call the police daily which is what I would have had to do to keep the noise down in the middle of the night to tolerable levels. I’m of the opinion that the police shouldn’t be wasting their time on matters such as that in the middle of the night – when undoubtedly there’s much more serious crimes going on.

    I still don’t see why overcrowding – which was the root cause of these problems (noise, cars, trash) could not be addressed directly. Otherwise, you are just addressing the symptoms. Besides, the occupants changed on a monthly basis, so no amount of educating people was going to work – as you’d have to educate a new set of people each month. The solution would be to make sure that overcrowding is stopped in its tracks, and the landlord is forbidden from continually renting the place out to 10+ people. If that made him lose money on the house – that’s too bad in my opinion. Not my fault that (in the case of the house next to mine) – it was bought at the ridiculous price of $360K, and from what I could tell never inhabited by the person who bought the house. Poor choice of an investment property – to pay that much for a townhouse and then expect to make money off of it by renting it out.

    And, finally, I never said being Hispanic was a definition of overcrowding. I never implied that either. What I said was (for more times than I can count) an overwhelming majority of the overcrowded houses were Hispanic, so it stands to reason the majority of the complaints would involve Hispanic occupied houses. I never said anything about overcrowding being defined as anything to do with being Hispanic! I doubt anyone else said that either – so not sure where you got that from.

  22. Gainesville Resident

    And as far as the trash, the HOA is all talk and no action. They repeatedly (the newsletter is printed in both English and Spanish) every month claim people are going to be fined for putting out trash on non trash days. Yet the same offenders continue to do that month after month, including the house next to me. Once they put out some falling apart old furniture the day after trash collection day. I called the HOA – the HOA said they’ll warn them once again. Big deal – they figured out the HOA was all talk and no action and continued to toss out all sorts of stuff on non trash days. Even their deck is full of trash – including furniture that no longer fits in the townhouse due to it being obviously turned into lots of space for mattresses and what have you.

  23. Gainesville Resident

    Actually, you know what – this discussion is getting ridiculous. Keep on believing the overcrowding zoning rules in the city were some huge plot to drive out Hispanics by singling them out. There’s been so much misinformation and distortions posted in this thread about the overcrowding issue – starting with the idea that “very few complaints were valid” that it isn’t worth continuing. I’ve discussed all this before ad infinitum and grow tired of discussing it, since my only stake in the old neighborhood is owning property there – which I plan to dispose of as soon as my agreement with the property management company runs out in another year and a half. At that point, I won’t care what happens to the neighborhood or the city of Manassas – if it fills up with overcrowded houses then it won’t be my problem anymore.

  24. Lafayette

    @Censored bybvbl
    Hundreds of people were signed up at the fair in August of 2007. I don’t know how well the membership grew after last year’s fair, but I’m sure it didn’t grow like it did in 2007. I didn’t see any representation from HSM at this year’s fair. It’s pretty costly to have a booth and then to find the manpower, oops womanpower, to work the booth.

  25. Censored bybvbl

    GR, you’re right – it isn’t worth continuing. I have a plethora of info available to me and have followed this issue from the beginning. The complaints in the City were spread throughout -mainly in older large houses. Hispanics were targetted 98% of the time in those complaints. It wasn’t an issue of their being the majority population in any specific area and thus fairly represented in the number of complaints. They were singled out. Spin it however you wish. I know better.
    Some of the violations were ameliorated by complying with the building code – sprinklers, egress for bedrooms, etc. – and didn’t involve anyone moving out.
    Again, some problems between homeowners are going to have to be solved in court and not on my dime. Over and out.

  26. Gainesville Resident

    OK, but I wasn’t the one that spun 110 out of 299 complaints into “The majority of complaints were unfounded. Yours may have been one of the very few exceptions.” Now that’s what I call spinning!

    And the houses I’m talking about weren’t large – they were 3 bedroom townhouses, definitely not designed to hold 10 or more people.

    Whatever, I definitely don’t hold monopoly on spinning on here. Not by a long shot.

  27. Gainesville Resident

    And finally, it matters not what the percentage of Hispanics overall in the city was – to claim they were “overrepresented” in the overcrowding complaints. What matters is the percentage of overcrowded houses in the city that were occupied by Hispanics. If that was much less than 98%, I’d be very surprised.

    Otherwise, it’s comparing apples to oranges. Someone could then make an argument that if the police pulled over people for speeding, and the amount of people pulled over for speeding under the age of 25 say – is much higher than the amount of people under age 25 in the entire US population – they are being unfairly targeted!!!

  28. Gainesville Resident

    I should substitute percentage for amount in the last paragraph of the above post. Otherwise, it sounds like I’m talking in absolute terms, not percentages or proportions.

    In any event, one has to be careful with the use of statistics, to make sure disparate sets of populations aren’t being compared. In the case of the city – it is incorrect to compare the percentage of overcrowded houses complained about that were occupied by Hispanics, against the percentage of Hispanic population as a whole.

  29. Second-Alamo

    I love the term unfairly targeted. Hey, as long as we are resolving zoning issues I could care less who is targeted. It’s not like people who aren’t causing a problem are being investigated. Eventually everyone who is causing a problem will get theirs as long as the enforcement rate exceeds the zoning violation rate. If it is the other way around, then I guess you could make the argument, as some may never be investigated.

  30. Moon-howler

    Some people are unfairly targeted for zoning situations. I can tell you 2 off the top of my head right at the moment. Neither are hispanic.

  31. Lafayette

    Two of my neighbors are now being targeted for zoning violations. They’re not hispanic either. Furthermore,they were didn’t get a visit or a notice on their door. Their first notice came to them via certified mail. The letter reads upon inspection of your property, but they never got from permission from either neighbor to do an inspection. How can this be?

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